June holds many Pride events across the globe where it is permissible. In many places, it simply isn't. LGBT today continue to be one of the most persecuted minority groups on the planet. Even in places where rights have advanced significantly, like in the United States, LGBT persons continue to suffer both de facto and de jure persecution. Since the election of Donald Trump, homicides against LGBT are up 17%
, excluding the horrific Pulse nightclub massacre that happened one year ago. Politicians continue to introduce laws designed to marginalize and discriminate against LGBT Americans and other places in the world.
When political leaders promote agendas of hate, there are real consequences. Take the situation in Uganda and the tragic death of human rights activist David Kato.
Life imprisonment for “carnal knowledge against the order of
nature.” Seven years for “gross indecency.” In February 2014, Ugandan president
Yoweri Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act, broadening the
criminalization of same-sex relations, which had already been illegal since
British colonial rule. You didn’t have to be in Uganda to be punished – the law
contained provisions for Ugandans to be extradited, should they be caught
violating this law abroad. You didn’t even have to be gay, as the act included
penalties for those who aided or abetted same-sex acts, whether the “aid” came from
individuals, companies, or NGOs.
A February 2011 leak of US diplomatic cables revealed US
concerns about the worsening human rights situation in Uganda and discussed a
UN funded conference held in 2009 during which David Kato, considered the
father of Uganda’s LGBT activism, gave an impassioned speed regarding the
anti-LGBT atmosphere in his country. MP David Bahati followed with a tirade
against homosexuality, which received massive applause.
Bahati, described in the US cables as a man whose homophobia
is “blinding and incurable,” authored the Anti-Homosexuality Act, which
originally called for LGBT Ugandans to be put to death. Uganda is not the only
African country to criminalize homosexuality; thirty-eight of 53 African
nations have laws on the books that punish homosexuality in some way. However,
Uganda’s law was considered particularly severe, reflecting a climate in which
an overwhelming majority of Ugandans disapprove of homosexuality and LGBT
citizens suffer violence, vandalism, discrimination, and “correctional” rape.
On 26 January 2011, David Kato was bludgeoned to death with
a hammer in his own home. Some weeks earlier, he had won a court case against a
tabloid that had pictured Kato and another man on the cover with the headline,
“Hang them.” The tabloid had been publishing lists of names and addresses of
Ugandans who were rumored to be gay; it was responsible for some of the
persecution as those identified in the lists were harassed, discriminated
against, detained, and beaten. Kato and other activists had seen increased
harassment since a high court judge granted a permanent injunction against the
tabloid to prevent it from identifying gay people.
While Kato paid the ultimate price for his fight to protect
LBGT Ugandans from the scourge of bigotry and human rights advocates across the
globe mourned his death, the environment did not improve. Three years later,
the Anti-Homosexuality Act was signed into law. Uganda saw an immediate spike
in human rights abuses following its enactment. Human rights group Sexual
Minorities of Uganda (SMUG) published a report documenting 162 cases of
persecution against LGBT Ugandans in May 2014 alone. LGBT Ugandans suffered
violence at the hands of authorities and private citizens, evictions,
employment termination, denial of health care, destruction of property, family
banishment, and social stigma that continued well after the Constitutional
Court of Uganda struck down the law in August 2014. The SMUG report, entitled,
“And that’s how I survived being killed
: Testimonies of human rights abuses
from Uganda’s sexual and gender minorities,” found 264 cases of persecution
from May 2014-December 2015.
Sadly, the Uganda situation hasn't improved. In fact, one has to wonder if the climate of hate that is spreading across the globe hasn't emboldened other would be LGBT killers in Uganda and elsewhere. Let us hope this is not the case.
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